May 11, 2016
FINALLY the County Air District is taking action to protect public health! For details of the Air District’s lawsuit against Grist Creek Aggregates and Mercer-Fraser see Important Documents bar on Home page. While this comes too late to protect neighbors from the gross levels of air pollution during the past six months of asphalt plant operations, and does not ensure the end of asphalt production in our watershed, it IS a major step in the right direction on the part of the Air District.
Now that the Caltrans paving project north of Laytonville is finished we’ve been wondering whether Mercer-Fraser will move their out-of-compliance operation on to the next lucrative contract or stick around for the duration of their five year lease at Grist Creek Aggregates. We’ve been told by the State Air Resources Board (ARB) that Mercer-Fraser is one of the top 15 Caltrans contractors and that ARB will be watching them closely where ever they go.
Friends of Outlet Creek Press Release May 6, 2016
Mendocino County Air District Seeks Superior Court Injunction against Grist Creek Aggregates asphalt plant.
Mendocino County Air Quality Management District (MCAQMD) has filed a lawsuit, on behalf of People of the State of California, against asphalt plant owner/operator Mercer-Fraser, Grist Creek Aggregates, and site owner Brian Hurt for violations of the California Health and Safety code. The complaint seeks civil penalties and an injunction against operating the plant until corrective action is taken to bring it into compliance with District, state and federal air pollution laws. The lawsuit was filed April 7, 2016 for the District by MCAQMD attorney, Terry N. Grosse, but has not been announced publicly until now.
The controversial asphalt plant, located on the banks of Outlet Creek, a main tributary of the Eel River, was fast-tracked without environmental review by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors in March of 2015. It was given a permit by the MCAQMD on June 2nd of 2015 allowing for 500,000 tons of annual asphalt production. Since asphalt operations began late last September MCAQMD has been inundated by complaints from nearby residents overwhelmed by thick clouds of noxious fumes emitted from the plant. This exposure has caused various health problems including headaches, nausea, trouble breathing and burning eyes, nose and throat. The plant has been the subject of investigations by both the State Air Resources Board and the County Air District since beginning operations in September to fulfill a Caltrans paving contract north of Laytonville,.
The lawsuit outlines eight different ways in which the Defendants failed to comply with District Rules, California Health and Safety Code, and the Permit conditions. Permit violations include: operating equipment without a permit, excess fugitive emissions from a variety of different sources, excessive visual emissions, and pubic nuisance. The lawsuit describes Defendants as acting “negligently, with callous indifference, and/or intentionally in their continued willful operation of the facilities for more than 6 months, which caused the release of air contaminants endangering residents in nearby homes, employees and the public in general.”
Permit violation fines currently amount to over $170,000. According to the lawsuit, representatives of Mercer-Fraser and Grist Creek Aggregates refused significantly reduced penalty fees and walked out during meetings with MCAQMD to negotiate resolution of the violations. Mercer-Fraser currently has a five year lease to operate an asphalt plant at the Grist Creek Aggregates site.
Please check out this link to listen to today’s live radio show (February 18) on KZYX Mendocino Currents with Glen Colwell and Supervisor Tom Woodhouse talking about the Grist Creek asphalt plant. Glen did a fantastic job explaining why so many neighbors are opposed to plant. The supervisor extolled Glen for his clarity and came very close to admitting that his introductiion of a motion to approve the plant to the BOS, as he did, was a mistake. Amy Lee, Sue Crews and Phil Crews also spoke eloquently. A physician who deals with airborne environmental toxins also talked about the dangers of rubberized asphalt emissions.
Once on the link you’ll need to select the show from the archives list for February 18, 2016 9am. It’s one hour live with a few minutes of unrelated announcements at the beginning:
Link: December 2, Willits News
Friends of Outlet Creek Update 11/13/15
A lot has happened since FOC filed their first lawsuit against the County back in March. Two additional lawsuits are now underway: a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) case against the County Air District; and a case against Grist Creek Aggregates (GCA) for violating the Clean Water Act.
Since September, when asphalt production began, the Outlet Creek canyon has repeatedly filled up with rubberized asphalt exhaust. An outpouring of complaints from neighbors inundated by toxic fumes has led to an ongoing investigation by the State Air Resources Board. The County Air District has recently issued $175,000 in fines to GCA for unpermitted machinery, fugitive emissions, and creating a public nuisance (see Willits News link above).
In October FOC’s initial lawsuit against the County for failing to undertake CEQA review for the asphalt plant was dismissed by the Mendocino County Superior Court. Since there has never been a CEQA analysis comparing the environmental impact of an asphalt plant at the site to the environmental impact of no asphalt plant at the site (the baseline condition at the time the application for the asphalt plant was presented to the County Air District) no exemptions from CEQA apply to the Project. And since no other agency has taken responsibility as the lead agency in permitting the project, the County Air District, in issuing a permit for the asphalt plant, is responsible for compliance with CEQA, hence the second CEQA case.
Lawyers Rachel Doughty of Greenfire Law and Jason Flanders of Aqua, Terra, Aeris Law Group are diligently working on these cases. The fight continues…